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Sense where you have James believe that all banking is personal and every philosophical theory is subjective in our region we would be justified in saying that his nervous system demanded a philosophy of free will and pluralism and it is quite true that this restless man who allowed novelty adventure and was bored by routine certainty and safety Everhart known as M and all closed systems of philosophy detested them of his whole character and personality. But his opposition was also based on his scientific education and his observation of the world he lived in. He did not deny that the universe might be at bottom an infinite one instead of an apparent many. But to an All-Knowing mind it might after all the interlock. And it vast iron block. But no human mind you contended could ever know this much. An electric car all great man and their environment in which James replied to Herbert Spencer is your argument that the heroes of history and society in general are the product of their time and place. He describes the importance of man's knowledge being finite
and this is a long quotation. It is a common platitude that a complete acquaintance with any one thing however small would require a knowledge of how the entire universe. And I despair of the ground that some of the remote conditions of his fall are to be found in the Milky Way in our Federal Constitution and the early history of Europe. That is to say alter the Milky Way alter that our constitution all of the facts of our barbarian ancestry and the universe which so far be a different universe from what it is now. One fact involved in the difference might be that a particular little street boy who threw the stone which brought down the sparrow might not find him set up with the spare at that particular moment are finding himself in there. He might not in that particular serene and disengaged mood of mind which expressed itself in throwing the stone. But true as all this is it would be very serious for anyone who was inquiring the cause of the sparrows fall to overlook the
boy. As to personal proximity and soldiers be anthropomorphic and agency and to say that the true cause is a federal constitution the westward migration the Celtic race or the structure of the north here why is it we perceive that now that we might say with perfect unity that a friend of ours who had stepped on the ice on his doorsteps and practiced golf month after dining with thirteen at the table died because of that feast. I know in fact one such instance and I might if I chose contend with perfect logic of propriety and to slip on the ice was no real accident. There are no X in time I'd say. For science the whole history of the world converged to produce a slip. If anything had been left out the step what happened not have occurred just there and then to say would is to deny the relations of cars and in fact throughout the entire universe the real cause of death was not the Slayer. Rather conditions which ingenuously up and I'm one of
them as having had a table 6 months previous one among 13 that is truer to the reason why you died within the year. So then that reminds me very much of Mark Twain who in all seriousness argued very much the same way. The Mysterious Stranger and the essay What is man. James maintained that this French Syrians were equally absurd and arguing that all changes in society coat are due to the environment to the circumstances the physical geography the ancestral conditions increasing experience of outer relations. Everything in fact except for grants and Bismarck's and Joneses and the Smiths. For the sake of argument James would grant that a divine intelligence would see instantaneously all the infinite lines of convergence toward it human result but the human mind has no such power of universal intuition its finiteness obliges it to see but two or three things at a time. If it wishes to take wider
sweeps it has to use general ideas as they are called and as are doing to drop all concrete Krueger's Thus in the present case. If we as man wish to feel the connection between the gnocchi way and the bar in the dinner in the spare on the man's death we may do so our own and by falling back on the enormous emptiness of what is called an abstract proposition we must say all of things on a world are plainly pre-determined hanging together in the adamantine fixity of a system of natural law. But in the vagueness of this vast proposition we have lost all the concrete facts and links and all practical matters that kind of create links and are the only things of importance. The human mind is essentially partial. It can be efficient at our own it by picking out what to attend to and ignore everything else by narrowing its point of view. Otherwise what little strength it has is dispersed and it loses its way altogether. I have a need to point out
or underscore the pragmatic ideas of these statements. Still before he had written pragmatism. But it might help to explain James's distrust of vast philosophical abstraction by mentioning the connection between his discovery of the nature of consciousness and his theory of reality as pluralistic. He was not the first to use the phrase stream of consciousness but he seems to have been a person to discover the almost incredible freight carried by the flow of consciousness at almost every moment of our lives. Our senses convey a multitude of sensations to our brains but we are consciously aware only a few of them at a time and actually focus attention on a still fewer number perhaps on of one or two at the same point of time. Will the same object or idea can be really experienced either through memory repetition of the extraneous stimuli the experience is never exactly the same sound new quality our intensity has augmented or diminished is the
process is like stepping into a river twice the sand and gravel may be the same but the water will not be to same water. And like man or metal live our consciousness is made up of a perceptual flux. James always contrasts to real Bastar percept over a concept he regarded concepts as second hand experience the result of abstracting general conclusions from the first 10 from first hand perceptions are sometimes how complicating abstractions based on no perception whatever wacky archetypes and Plato's have. Broad percepts and concepts are James with method useful and necessary but like Bergson who arrived at the center of theory independently he thought that the perceptual lifeforce mirror reality whatever that is. And some problems of philosophy. James admitted that the question being is the darkest in philosophy. But for this very reason he insisted that business is far more with its
WAP than with his points and why. Which is to say with his waxing and waning phenomenal experience itself and not with his hidden depths about which our minds confront only remote guesses. Hence James declared himself a radical empiricist which he defined in a letter to his and his fellow pragmatist FCA Schiller. Once admitted that experience is a river which made the channel that now in part but only in part confines it and seems to me at all sorts of realities and completeness is possible in philosophy hitherto stiffened and crap. Rather silly little as is the upper and lower dogmatism of alternating their pet or pet is rationalistic and naturalistic idols of the shock. By upper and lower dogmatism Jayne's problem that the absolute idealism of his colleagues your Cyrus derive about re efficacy and Hegel and
determinism and Herbert Spencer and absolute idealism of the universe get its unity from existing in the mind of God. And some problems in philosophy which contains a clear explanation of James of federalism than his book called The proto universe. He advanced four major objections to monistic idealism and this is a long quotation only indicate a number of the points and not that I am forty one. It does not account for our finite consciousness. If nothing exists but as an absolute mine no was it. How can anything exist otherwise than as that and I never say that my numbers. Each thing in one act of knowing along with every other thing. Finite minds know things without other things and this ignorance is the source of most of their world. We have thus not stamped objects to an all knowing subject. We are subjects on our own account and no differently from its knowing
and number two it creates a problem of evil evil of our pluralism presents all of the practical problem of how to get rid of it. From Mormonism the possible is theoretical. However perfection be the source. Should there be imperfection if the world is known to the absolutely perfect. Why should it be known otherwise and myriads of inferior finite editions also. The perfect addition surely was enough. However the breakage and dispersion and ignorance. Point three it contradicts the character of reality as perceptual experience of our world. Change seems an essential ingredient. There is history there are novelties struggles losses and gains but the world of the Absolute is represented as unchanging eternal or out of time and is far into our powers. Either apprehension or appreciation mourn as the new
year that creates a sense world as a mirage or illusion. Point 4 is fatalistic possibility as distinguished from necessity on the one hand and from impossibility on the other is a pure illusion for whatever is is necessary and all else is impossible. If the world is such a unit of fact as Monas pretend. From James's pluralistic point of view our sense of freedom supposes that some things are at least some things at least are decided here and now that the passing moment may contain some novelty be an original starting point to advance and not merely transmit a push from elsewhere. We imagine that in some respects at least the future may not be call implicated with a past that may be related. Adam will to it and indeed Adam will in one shape are another. So that the next turn in events can any given moment
genuine in the end the viewers that is prosper this but also possibly that to translate this into social terms. Events in human history Candy and DD are determined by human effort. A bad law can be repealed by sufficient protest you're going to venture forth to vote against it. Course I'm thinking here as James wrote of a democratic society. So you might say doesn't work even there sometimes to even the effects of natural events such as droughts floods storms can be diminished and sometimes even averted by sufficient corroborative human effort. James admit that approach pluralism accepting a universe unfinished with doors and windows open to possibility is uncontrollable in advance gives us less religious certainty than monism with its absolute closed in world and cold.
However he does not believe that mon isms religious certainty is based on sound reasoning but on blind faith. Coat and point of fact. Mormonism is usually willing to accept exert his optimistic faith. Their world is certain to be saved. Yes it is saved already unconditionally and from eternity in spite of the phenomenal heresy of risk on cold rationalistic mind. James remarks finds intolerable the idea of a world working out and on a certain destiny as a phenomenal world appears to be during pluralism on the other hand is neither optimistic not pessimistic. Miller is to drop their world it banks may be slaves on condition that his park shall do their best but shipwreck is in detail even on the whole is among the open possibilities. Although James does not say so the world is thinking out here same's
Obviously man sourcer world rather than a cosmic one which is not likely to be saved by human effort. And since James did not live to see the harnessing of atomic energy he did not dream of a future danger man might be able to destroy his world quite literally and maybe even totally. And this connection is interesting to recall a correspondence James had with Henry Adams a few months before James's death in the winter of 1990 10 adders proudest and address to the American Historical Association in which we argued that the time had come to make the study of source of data scientists to find a law of history. All writers in the words of Adams and his science history must be absolute like other sciences and I was fixed with mathematical certainty the path which human society has got to follow. And a quotation. If you found such a law and the principle of entropy
that is according to the second law firm dynamics. Universe is running down cooling off. Its energy is being dissipated into space. From this principle atoms tried to evolve a mathematical formula for the rise and fall of society. After reading the address that James wrote Adams did not impress him at all. Code saved by its wit and erudition. And I ask you to write an old man soon about to meet his maker. Ironically of course it was Henry James or not Adams who were soon to meet his maker. Time save him from the consequences of his life by pointing to their wit and learning. He has shown and creating a tragic subject. No sir you can't do it you can't impress God in that way. James ran that so far as our scientific conceptions go it may be admitted that your Creator and mine started the universe with a certain amount of energy laid in it and decree that everything that should happen thereafter should be a
result of that energy falling to the lower levels raising other parts higher to be sure. In so doing but never in a problem out or into the constant radiation an unrecoverable wanted. None of the process. But I protest against your interpretation of some of the specifications of the great statistical drift downward of the original high level energy. So then it referred to James that is approaching death. He wrote this about two months before he actually did die. James thought the fallacy in Adams's argument was an amazing energy profitably. Certain arrangements of matter on the same energy level are here old atoms from the point of view of man's appreciation superior others are inferior physically a dinosaur's brain may show as much intensity of energy exchange as a man but he can do infinitely fewer things because as a force to topple it can own it on a lock the dinosaur's muscles
while the man's brain by unlocking five favorite muscles indirectly can by their means issue proclamations right. Groups describe sharks cathedrals and so forth. And guide the energies out the shrinking sun into channels which never would have been entered otherwise. And shark make history. Therefore the man's brain and muscles are on the point of view of the historian. The more important place of energy exchange small and this may be even measured in absolute physical units. RUSSELL JAMES found the Second Law of Thermodynamics whole irrelevant to history saying that it set a terminus for history is a course of things before that terminus. Although modern astronomers have not rejected the principle of entropy they are not so sure enlarger that our universe is indeed headed for the terminus Jaman atoms except as an out of something they are finding evidence that some mysterious
process of renewal is taking place periodically taking place to balance exhaustion. James research I have been interested in this rural area there of course he was familiar with the psychic cosmic theories and Nietzsche which however did not examine individual planets from extinction. But what I gave James hope for society was the potential human brain for many years he had been studying this potential in a way I have so far scarcely hinted and Ray that sometimes seems to ally him with the transcendent idealist such as Emerson. Even before writing his principles of psychology he had become interested in Psycho research and he would continue until the end of his life to attend seances with the hope of finding some real evidence of telepathy clairvoyance survival some kind of consciousness after death the body and so on. Actually he never did find any conclusive evidence. But you continue to try. His
energy was partly curiosity but is Aquinas with hypnotism which he experimented with but personality which he had observed on many trips to insane asylums and with mystical visions. Both he and his very religious father had each had one traumatic mystical experience of these phenomenon made him wonder whether an individual consciousness might not somehow be a part of a larger consciousness. I at times under certain circumstances to coexist with other consciousnesses. He never came to believe sufficiently in an eternal consciousness encompassing all finite consciousness to cause him to renounce pluralism for monism entertain the idea of course but he always had a strong intuitive feeling that the phenomenon of consciousness was a pluralistic. In a study of religious experiences the plural is important. James began by collecting every record he could find of a religious nature. When he published his book he called it the new varieties
are religious experiences subtitled A study of human nature and the subtitle also first description then comparison classification analysis and find of some tender conclusion. This was in order. His cautious procedures. He wanted her to evolve to find out the nature of a religious experience. And whether the mass of such experiences had anything and come his approach was there for a psychological. And he soon became convinced that feeling and not intellect or reason was a doorway to the religious life. Darkness and systematic theologist were all the fossils of religion sometimes surviving centuries after life had departed from the drive homes. If a person had to prove the existence of God by logic that person had never had intimate knowledge of God. The only virtue James could find in a theology or a church was unaesthetic one
lacked the logical symmetry of scholasticism our beautiful architecture of a medieval cathedral. But why had man built the cathedral and what function did it serve in their lives. Aside from aesthetics. James was never more pragmatic in his search for such answers. They want to believe he found in all examples of their religious experiences was that they weren't Rafelson that he had been in communication or some sort of contact with spiritual power singular or plural for which he derived a charge of energy. And all religions there seem to be three similar techniques for attacking the psyche and you and I have summarized over here this is a summary rather than quotation or a paraphrase one sacrifice for other prior offerings in primitive societies our asceticism which is symbolical sacrifice. My phrase not his but I think it is
a problem anymore Holland in our society. To confession. A general system of purgation and cleansing felt to be necessary for attaining the right relations to D and this is found in monotheism and polity as well. Number three priors ranging from petition for a personal favor for every kind of inward communion. Our conversation with a power recognized as divine prayer James found was and this is a quotation the very Saul and essence of religion. Religion is nothing if it be not divide the act by which the entire mind seeks to save Assaf by clinging to the principle from which it draws its life. For ever this interior prayer is lacking. There is no religion for ever on the other hand this prayer rises and stirs the soul even in
the absence of forms our doctrines. We have a living religion and a quotation. If James seems to underwrite sacrifice and confession it should be noticed that these especially can fashion and also confidence and of value. Divorce and ever were included in his conception of prayer. And another quotation. As a rule religious persons generally assume that whatever natural facts connect him say I was in any way with their destiny are significant other divine purposes for them through prayer prayer other preppers all far from obvious comes home to them. And if it be trial the strength to endure the trial is given. Thus at all stages of the prayerful life we find the persuasion that in the process of communion energy from on high flows and to meet demand and becomes operate within the phenomenal world. So long as this
operative news is admitted to be real it makes no essential difference whether its immediate effects be subjective or objective. The fundamental religious point is that in prayer spiritual energy which otherwise would slumber. Does become active and spiritual work of some crime is affected really. And a quotation. The task of religious experience therefore is pragmatic. It does not matter James say as where the energy came from artifact of science cannot account for it. And code again. I want to apologize to someone for tracing because of James's languages or mildness I think that I was enjoy his own words. Religion in short is a monument to a monumental chapter in the history of human egg of his own. The gods believed in rather by crude savages are by a man just an intellectually agree with each other in recognizing personal cause. Religious thought is carried
on in terms of personality. This being in the world of religion they one fundamental fact today quite as much as any previous age. The religious individual tells you that the divine meets him on the basis of his personal concerns and a quotation from James himself suspected that a mysterious psychic energy might come from the person's own subconscious. But this did not for him rule out the possibility of contact with some sort of supernatural are super on natural consciousness. The consciousness might be the doorway to the supernatural and doorway also on the other side between a science of religion and the living experience of religion for science except the existence of the subconscious. Of course the assumption that a sub conscious is a doorway to a world of nonphysical energy is only an assumption. But the effects are real and James found no other hypothesis for their source. He admitted to
that to experience this flow of energy from some mysterious fountain in the subconscious. One must have confidence in his excesses. What the church calls faith and James and all were relieved. And then this longer comment of his on the subject over leave. Although with a religious question is primarily a question of life and living are not living in a higher union which opens its after us as a gift. Yet this spiritual excitement and which the gift appears a real one often fail to rouse an individual until certain intellectual beliefs or ideas which as we say Come home to him are touched by these ideas realness be essential to the individual to religion which is as much as to say that over beliefs and various directions are absolutely indispensable and that we should treat them with tenderness and tolerance so long as we are not intolerant themselves disregarding the over beliefs and confining ourselves to what is common and generic.
We have and the fact that a conscious person is continuous with a wider self there which saving experience is calm and a positive content to just experience which it seems to me it is literally an object A true as far as it nurse. You heard gay Wilson Allen professor of English at the New York University graduate school as he spoke on the topic. William James and the philosophy of the free mans world. This was another program in the series. Peace love and creativity the hope of mankind. On our next program Alfred Jones co-director of the mental health consultant Center in New York will discuss the nature of creativity. These programs originate at the Cooper Union forum in New York City and are recorded by radio station WNYC. The programs are made available to the station by the national educational radio network.
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Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind
Philosophy of the free man's world, part two
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents the second part of a lecture by Gay Wilson Allen, Professor of English, New York University Graduate School.
Series Description
This series presents lectures from the 1968 Cooper Union Forum. This forum's theme is Peace, Love, Creativity: The Hope of Mankind.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Speaker: Allen, Gay Wilson, 1903-1995
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-10-19 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:15
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Chicago: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Philosophy of the free man's world, part two,” 1968-04-15, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 12, 2024,
MLA: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Philosophy of the free man's world, part two.” 1968-04-15. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 12, 2024. <>.
APA: Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Philosophy of the free man's world, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from